The FCC voted 3-2 to pass the rules it had drawn up with the ‘help’ of telecommunications companies like Verizon and AT&T. In the ways of Washington over the last several months, almost no one is happy with the plan. And yet again the is being called to the mat. Well, , which might tell us something about the plan already:
Based on our understandings, this measure would avoid onerous Title II regulation; would be narrowly drawn along the lines of a compromise we have endorsed previously; would reject limits on our ability to properly manage our network and efficiently utilize our wireless spectrum; would recognize the capabilities and limitations of different broadband technologies; would ensure specialized services are protected against intrusive regulation; and would provide for a case-by-case resolution of complaints that also encourages non-governmental dispute settlement.
So why do weon the ?
We won’t insult your intelligence by parsing AT&T entire statement. But the last clause should be of particular concern, because it concerns you and me (And yes, I am likely preaching to the choir. If you think my point is worth repeating, feel free to forward this sermon to the agnostics among us. If not, please comment on where you disagree.). “And would provide for a case-by-case resolution of complaints that also encourages non-governmental dispute settlement.”
One need not be a lawyer to appreciate the way that clause will play out. IF you are aware of how your online access is being steered, slowed, or rerouted, and IF you want to raise a complaint about it, then we have a brothel full of retained lawyers who would be happy to deal with you individually and without government interference – all in an effort to encourage out-of-court settlement.
When you do raise your complaint, please do be aware of the fact that the tel-co/ISP/wireless provider you are challenging holds the servers, towers, satellites, and drives that contain the evidence of any internet manipulation. Though I feel confident that they would be more than happy to share that information with you as you build your case.
The fact of the matter is, I am even more pessimistic than that. We all know when our own home’s/business’s/school’s internet is ‘down’ or seems really sluggish. But do we really have any idea how or why we keep seeing the same group of corporate ads on whatever website we go to? And how on earth can we have any idea about what we are NOT getting access to? The politically-engaged among us are likely aware that Apple, Bank America, and many others have yanked any references to Wikileaks from their own systems. Whether you want to call that censorship or not, you know about it because you are not dependent on Apple, Bank America, et al., to get that information to you. You are dependent on AT&T or Comcast to get your network to you. If one of them decides to block information about a competitor’s new deal or a technology’s latest development, how will you know?
And if you are thinking, “Well, they won’t ‘block’ it, though they might give their own spin on the information priority on their network.” Agreed. And when was the last time any of us spent an extra ten or fifteen minutes to dig down to the fourth or fifth page of a Google search to compare the information there with the information offered in the first couple of hits?
And if you are thinking, “I can always change providers.” Agreed again. Though theis only the beginning, and as the bigger providers agglomerate, they will demand ever longer contracts with ever more demanding hookup/early release fees. Ask anyone with an iPhone. As a parallel example, anyone see any smaller banking successes after we bailed out those ‘too big to fail’?
But there is good news during this Yule-Tide season. Al Franken has not given up his fight to create a truly neutral net (To sign his digital petition, ). Here is his latest (25-minute) speech to Congress about the Comcast/NBC merger and its ‘tip-of-the-iceberg’ effect on net neutrality:
And the National Conference for Media Reform has opened up its registration for its national conference on 8-10 April 2011. We can continue to try to stem the tide, as long as we can get hold of the information.
Thank you for reading.